Untitled (Robin Hood)
I tried numerous times to sit down with Denver’s own Zach Reini to catch up and talk about art and music. But the more we tried to sit down to interview, the more we were distracted by Goldeneye for Nintendo 64, skate videos, or eating Chipotle. Finally we hunkered down and let it rip. For those who don’t know Zach Reini, he is one of the few young Denver artists gaining attention while still in college. Known for his large black on black paintings, Reini attends Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design where he will be receiving his Bachelor’s degree in a few months. Reini is represented by Rule Gallery in Denver.
Interview by Michael Bhichitkul
Why do you use such iconic imagery in your work? Why blur the imagery to extent where it nearly unrecognizable?
The iconic imagery is attractive—it seduces people. I fell for it as well. It’s something that I know and am familiar with. Since imagery of such pedigree is so readily available, everyone has interacted and constructed their own histories with it at some point. I abstract these forms to place them outside of their recognizable context, stripping them of their pictorial power, allowing the viewer to reconnect with their histories from a new tilt. This delay of decoding, finding out what information is there and what it represents, is of great interest to me—especially with the instant satisfaction induced by the Internet and other popular media.
Black is a dominant color in your work. Why?
In my work, I’ve tried to maintain focus on the visual information that is important and trim off all of the remaining fat. With black, there are fewer allusions to things outside of itself that other colors tend to reference; i.e. blue, sadness; red, passion; yellow, happiness. I don’t want an easy of a trigger in my work, but rather the essential elements in the piece to engage that emotional read, not the color. I’ve found black to be as far reduced as something can be while still possessing a particular visual weight about it.
You mostly work with paint, but you also use ready-mades as sculptural pieces. What draws you to sculptural work?
I wouldn’t label myself as a painter, that’s far too limiting for me. My attraction to sculpture is based on necessity. If a piece needs the physicality that a painting cannot provide, then another form is required. There is no need to make a painting of person when photography can do this much easier, without the romance of the artist laboring over the rendition (unless this is a part of it). It can get a little fuzzy at times, but I like to make work where the content supports its physicality and vice versa.
You’re close to earning your BFA from Rocky Mountain College Art and Design, but you are already represented by one of the most respected galleries in Denver, Rule Gallery. This distinction would be considered a major milestone for an artist post-BFA, but you happened to reach this milestone early. Can you talk about your relationship with Rule Gallery?
I’ve been affiliated with the gallery for about a year now. It all came about pretty suddenly and spontaneously. A friend of mine, Joseph Coniff, was interning at the time Robin was putting together a group show of emerging artists at her old space. He called me up and asked if I had any pieces to bring down and show her. Understandably, I jumped at the opportunity. It turned out that she liked my work and even sold a piece. The relationship built pretty naturally from there and I was then featured on her website which is where we stand now. I’m really appreciative of the opportunities she’s given me and can’t wait to see where it goes in the future.
Another big achievement is a solo show titled Suburban Lawns at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, which just recently closed. As a BFA student, what did you take away from this experience?
It definitely opened up my awareness of the opportunities available for a young artist, as well as the difficulties of gaining exposure at this stage. It has helped me take a more professional stance with my work, and realize that confidence paired with the right people, work, and presentation can go a long way. It is 100% different than showing in an academic environment, because when you show in the academic space it immediately gets categorized as “student” work. I urge my fellow emerging artists to branch out as much as they can, to open themselves up to the available opportunities. But, then again, the school environment is great when people are still experimenting and trying to solidify their ideas.
Some people might not know that you have multiple music projects. Can you give us a teaser of what these musical projects are and what genre they fall into?
I’m involved in several projects primarily centered around Hardcore Punk, Noise, and all of its subsequent sub-genres. Two of the projects, Civilized and Cadaver Dog, have tapes coming out soon on Youth Attack, both of which I am very pleased with. Another, Polyurethane, which started as a solo project, is more on the Noise side of things with definite cues to Hardcore. Hopefully a release will be coming with that project soon too.
You also make small zines, which link back to the punk/hardcore sub culture. Is there a way to get a hold of any of them?
I post all my zines for sale on my webstore: http://shop.zachreini.com
What other influences outside the art/punk DIY realms help you develop new work?
The Internet, chance observations, people interacting, pretty much everything. This question is assuming I attempt to pigeon-hole myself with my influences, I gain something from everything I experience. Similar to everyone else, I assume.
Along with being a visual artist, and a musician, you’re a man of many stories. Do you have any that come to mind in particular?
I heard a quote about Chris Farley saying that he only had one character, but he did it at different volumes. I think I have one really great story that I try and tell differently each time for a new effect. What I’ll say about this one (without getting too graphic) involves the following in semi-specific order: half a vegan pizza, bad beer, breakfast burrito from Viva, garbanzo bean salad, a pair of unsuspecting shorts, the light rail, an unfortunate bowel mishap, and a good friend and an unknown old lady to witness an awkward run home. I think you can piece it together from there.
2011 was a great year for you: multiple gallery shows, Suburban Lawns at BMOCA, voted best artist of 2011 in Denver’s 303 Magazine, and a feature in New American Paintings. What do you have in store next for 2012?
I’ll take what I can get and what I can make for myself. I plan on continuing to move forward and see what happens from there. I don’t want to become stagnant or regressive just yet. Keeping busy is the key.